The Year of Maria Theresa: Maria Carolina – Victim of smallpox

On 12 January 1740, a third daughter was born to Maria Theresa and her husband Duke Francis of Lorraine. The child was named Maria Carolina and was born at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

The birth of another girl was a disappointment to the family. Maria Carolina’s grandfather was Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI who was also sovereign of numerous other Habsburg dominions and was without a male heir.

On 20th October 1740, Charles VI died, and he had made sure his daughter Maria Theresa would succeed him by abolishing the rule of male-only succession to most of the Habsburg realms. The succession did not go as planned and the War of the Austrian Succession soon followed. If Maria Carolina had been a son, then this would probably not have happened.

On 24th January 1741, the Archduchess Maria Carolina fell ill very suddenly and began to have violent seizures. The young girl died the next day aged just one year. The cause of death was not determined, despite a post-mortem being carried out. It is believed that smallpox or the violent seizures caused the child’s death.



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